United Natural Foods Inc. to Use Symbotic Case-Handling Robotic Systems at Five Distribution Centers

The Symbotic System has multiple hardware and software layers including robotic arms and a shuttle.


An image of Symbotic's robotic system for mixed-SKU pallets.
Aiming to lower costs and increase storage space, United Natural Foods Inc. has decided to invest in Symbotic’s multilayered case-handing system.

United Natural Foods Inc. plans to use Symbotic Inc.’s robotic systems at five of its distribution centers in the next four years. That’s according to a new commercial deal it signed with the Wilmington, Mass.-based robotics company.

“We’re pleased to introduce Symbotic systems into our distribution network, which we believe will benefit our customers, suppliers and associates,” said Mark Bushway, UNFI’s chief supply chain officer in a statement yesterday. “We currently have automation in a number of our distribution centers, but we believe the Symbotic System will improve the accuracy, efficiency, quality and speed of our supply chain and help take our operations to a new level.”

Symbotic System is composed of multiple parts

Its system includes inbound, storage structure, retrieval, and outbound sections.

For example, Symbotic said its case handling robotic arms can process up to 1,700 cases per hour and will help UNFI improve order accuracy and increase storage capacities at their facilities. The robots use computer vision to depalletize and singulate the cases.

“The Symbotic System will be able to fulfill customer-specific orders, which is expected to create operating efficiencies at the customer-store level while creating a safer environment for associates,” the company said.

UNFI distribution to tens of thousands of stores

Providence, R.I-based UNFI provides products to more than 30,000 stores throughout North America. That includes conventional supermarkets, independent retailers, and online stores. The company said it also offers customers “value-added services and segmented market expertise.”

“We are excited to welcome UNFI as a customer and look forward to working with them to transform their distribution centers,” said Michael J. Loparco, CEO of Symbotic. “Additionally, we believe this agreement further validates the broad applicability of the Symbotic A.I.-powered robotics and software platform.”

Under agreement, UNFI can add more of Symbotic’s robots in the future.

To date, Symbotic has raised $405 million funding, according to Crunchbase. The company said it caters its products and services to retail and food and beverage markets.

“Applying next generation technology, high-density storage, and machine learning to solve today’s complex distribution challenges, Symbotic enables companies to move goods with unmatched speed, agility, accuracy, and efficiency,” the company said. 

Symbotic: Reimagine the Supply Chain

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An image of Symbotic's robotic system for mixed-SKU pallets.

Robot Technologies